Intertextuality, Nafisi, and Pound

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From Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

Robert Frost said, "A poem is best read in the light of all the other poems ever written.  We read A the better to read B (we have to start somewhere; we may get very little out of A).  We read B the better to read C, C the better to read D, D the better to go back and get something out of A.  Progress is not the aim, but circulation.  The thing is to get among the poems where they hold each other apart in their places as the stars do" (267).

This quote really reminded me of what Azar Nafisi was saying in her lecture: that all works of literature are related and build off of each other. (Click here to see what I thought about Nafisi's lecture.)  It is amazing to think that something written thousands of years later ("D") could open up a mind to something new about the old concept ("A").   The cycle of literature is much like the cycle or circle of life.  Everything influences other things.   For example, when I think of intertectuality, I have to think of "A Pact" by Ezra Pound.  We recently studied this poem in American Literature and it is an example how poetry influences you (whether you like it or not).  Pound didn't like Walt Whitman, but at the same time understands how Whitman set the stage for him, he "broke the new wood" so that Pound could carve it.  Pound, by writing this poem, is recognizing the loose ties between his own poetry and Whitman's, take him or leave him.  Because of this, Nafisi, Pound, you and me are all related in this great cycle.  Although Pound would never be able to read one of my poems, what I write could help someone better understand what he wrote.  Weird, right?

What works can you see an intertextual relationship in?

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1 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Angela, I liked your relation of intertextuality to Pound’s poem by Whitman. I think that is a really good example. It is kind of mind-boggling to think that every single thing you ever read will forever change your perception of every single other thing you read for the rest of your life. Certainly, some things will affect us more than others, but they still do.

It is kind hard for me to picture a thesis focusing on this idea though. For if an author never actually read the work of someone else, but it changes how we view it, isn’t this more reader-response than anything else? After all, the texts never changed, it was simply our perception of them.

For example, Dr. Jerz mentioned the intertextual relationship between Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. I happen to have read both of these books. Jane Eyre was written long before Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys chose to take a character from Jane Eyre (Rochester’s wife, Bertha) and tell her story. My perception of this character in Jane Eyre has obviously been affected from reading a story about her, which makes her seem more sympathetic. However, Charlotte Bronte obviously had no knowledge of Wide Sargasso Sea, which was written much later. How do I create a thesis which does not focus on my (as the reader) changed perception of Jane Eyre? After all, isn’t part of the point in intertextual criticism that it focuses more on the literary cannon itself than the reader or the author?

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